We need fresh terms -- not all online writers are the same
The Lapps have at least 50 words for snow. Yet we have only one word for bloggers. Clearly, we are doing something wrong.“Blogger” encompasses myriad online writers. There is the guy in his pajamas pounding out personal thoughts from his basement; a person who has created his or her own website to report on events; a one-person diary; sites where a group of people weigh in; and a person writing for an established news organization. It makes no sense for them to be lumped into one word. According to Advertising Age, 19% of kids aged 12-17 have their own blogs. (Should we call them klogs, for kid logs? Togs for tween-teen blogs?) They shouldn’t be confused with Variety’s reporters and editors or the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, for example. Since these writers are pros, we could call them prologs. Perhaps, in honor of our Scandinavian friends, we should label this group as Lapps, i.e., folks who do Lucid and Professional Postings. Since there are some genuinely mean people online who only enjoy denigrating others, can we call them floggers? And then there are people who run a solo site that reflects a singular voice. Should Perez Hilton, for example, be blurred with the Huffington Post, which is founded on the notion of multiple voices? Hilton could be a solog, or sololog, while Huffington could be voxpop. Or they can invent their own names, but “blogger” doesn’t do it. Way, way back at the end of the 20th century, a blog was a sort of an online diary, showing a person’s opinions and activities. Now “blogs” often bring in news and press releases — and many bloggers feel a need to add their personal voices to the news. So the “blog” terminology mixes facts with opinion, and there should be key distinctions there. As we try to sort out the world of news, “blogger” confuses the issue. In print, the public has had most of the 20th century to differentiate between business journals, consumer papers, supermarket tabloids, fanzines, special-interest publications, advertorials, etc. We know the target readership of each, and we know each one’s level of credibility. The only people who lump them all together are politicians when they lament “the media,” as if the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, National Enquirer, E! and Al Jazeera all speak with the same voice. So when people rail against bloggers, I think they’re talking about the folks who mix fact with opinion and who “report” without ever doing any investigation. On the other hand, maybe it’s too soon to invent words — perhaps people have enough new terms to think about. The average English-speaker knows 10,000 to 20,000 words. And everyone has been forced to expand their vocabularies due to the massive changes in the 21st century — possibly greater than in any other time in modern history. We have been bombarded with new words and names in the past decades, and it’s surprising how quickly they have entered our everyday lives. So before you turn on your flatscreen to get intel from the Live Mega-Doppler — obviously a vast improvement over those old tape-delayed mini-Dopplers — consider the following: Terms you rarely heard a decade ago: Blog, emoticons, mo-cap, paywall, B2B, B2C, LCD, DVR, ISP, OLED (Organic LED), DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative), DI (Digital Intermediate), SMS, Stereoscopic 3D, ringtone, meta-tagging, user-applied tags, podcast, webisode, mobisode, gorno, mega-pixel, convo, biz-dev, con-call, WMD, LOL, ebook, iPod, and endless other e- and i- variations. Names you never heard 10 years ago: Hulu, Wii, Netflix, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Wikipedia, Blu-ray, Skype, JibJab, TypePad. Words being used differently from 10 years ago: Spam, firewall, agnostic, browser, platform, Blackberry, Flash, stream, search, plasma, paintbox, surfing, endemic, server. Terms you never hear anymore: Floppy disc, mimeograph, data processing, Morse Code, teletype machine, telex, telegram, Betamax, file cards, abacus, slide rule, color TV, TV dial, Victrola, phonograph, LP, 45 RPM, eight-track, longplay, flip side, typewriter ribbon. Endangered terms: Fast-forward, joystick, information superhighway. It’s not just technology. We have learned such terms as barista, jihad, frenemy, staycation, transfat, stem cell, carbon footprint, e-coli, ebola, ethanol and smackdown. In the past few decades, Bombay suddenly became Mumbai, Peking turned into Beijing, and somebody invented a country named Turks & Caicos. (It sounds like two L.A. street gangs, not a nation.) The breakup of the Soviet Union created a flood of new names to remember, while a 20-year-old map of Africa has countries that have changed identities. So perhaps we should sympathize with the poor contestant on VH1′s sublime old show “America’s Most Smartest Model” who thought Darfur was a men’s cologne. (I’m not making this up.) Congratulate yourself for increasing your vocabulary. On the other hand, you may not want to think about this too much. If you consider all the new words, jargon, tech and texting initials you’ve added recently, you might have to create your own new term: OMG OD.